Mason, Dick (1951-1993)
"Untitled Studies II"
Graphite on Paper
H:20 x W:13
Dick Mason thought a lot about time, permanence, things which last. He remembered as a young boy in Kansas the trips to his grandfather's ranch in the Flinthills. There he saw the weathered stone foundations from old homesteads and was fascinated with these "ruins," reminders of the past. The notion that a stone wall, a construction built by man, outlasts the builder, had stayed with him. At their home in Wichita, he helped his father, Claude Mason, an architect, build a wall with some of these same stones, laying them out soundly, using overlapping joints, straight and solid and true.
He was impressed again with the lasting qualities of the stones, and with the way that the anonymous builders had laid out walls with them, interlocking them, fitting them closely with a skill which would allow them to endure. Later he would find the Anasazi ruins of the Southwest an inspiring subject.
Chaco Canyon, where Pueblo Bonito and its satellites housed more than five thousand people in its high period, 1030 to 1300 A.D., now abandoned, has achieved a kind of painted immortality, reincarnated in Mason's Chaco Canyon series.
In 1986 he traveled to Peru to gain ideas for a second series based on the Inca ruins. No people have ever fitted stone to stone in perfect ashlar, that is, without mortar, more successfully than the Incas, whose civilization has been notably outlasted by its walls. Mason had been particularly fascinated by such walls: Around his own house in the hills - the hills and breadth of sky reflected in his painting - he had built retaining walls of stone, as much for the pleasure of the building as the value of the walls.
This country, this viewpoint, from Santa Fe, is the stimulus for his paintings. He moved to New Mexico in 1975, not so much for the landscape (after the many associations which have grown up around the label "landscape painter," he was wary of that designation,) but "to digest the creative energy that saturates life here." So it is not only the strong colors, the various textures, the clarity of the long vision, but the atmosphere of New Mexico which has borne fruit in his art. The new impact was so strong, in fact, that it took him two years after arriving before he had sorted it out sufficiently to carry it out in painting.
He received a grounding in printmaking as well. It has given him a feel for surfaces which comes through in the exquisitely distinguished textural differences in his paintings. Undoubtedly this intensive early training, rarely acquired by young artists since the passing of the apprentice system and the master's workshop, has much to do with the consummate technique he exhibited as an adult. Later study took place at Wichita State University and the University of Iowa, where he took his BFA. He was grateful for such a thorough groundwork. Drawing, he had come to feel, was the foundation of "just about everything" he did and a knowledge of texture and dimension gained from printmaking and sculpture has enriched his painting.